Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Next Aircraft

I have been searching for planes the last month or two, and we have chosen our next aircraft. I have been looking at Commanders and Sierras, and this week we have decided on a Commander 112A.

Our good friends in the Beech Aero Club are going to be selling their Sierra and it was a high priority want for us since it was so well equipped and maintained. The only issue was the Commanders kept calling me back for another look. Mary and I really like the room and seat configuration. This might seem trivial to some but with our physical status it was important.
The difference is sitting up in an SUV like seat vs sitting with your legs more straight out in front of you like a sports car. Both planes are roomy, just a few inches difference in width. Both aircraft are Lycoming powered with the IO-360 and cruise speeds are pretty much the same. Both aircraft we were interested in have the new three blade prop and engine times are both low time and recent installs.

I should add that cost was also a factor.  The original plan to look for a Commander 114 put plane prices above 100k. As much as I would have liked more speed and useful load it just wasn't worth that for our typical mission. Another important factor was not wanting to dip into investments or our savings, and worst case would be to finance a part of the cost. It came down to very good paint and interior (P&I) with low engine times and an excellent maintenance record. The Commander won out on cost, P&I, and seating configuration.

Mary and I are headed out to see the Commander 112A next week and maybe get a flight in, depending on weather. I hope to get some video and document the road trip.

We keep reminding ourselves, it's a process.  One step at a time, hopefully in the forward direction, and we will achieve our goals.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Vlog Update 3/24/2019

I just wanted to post a quick Vlog update.  Ziva and I headed to the airport for some playtime and I got to hear and see airplanes.  Win win!
I did a very quick edit to put some clips together and share the beautiful day here in Ocean City, Maryland.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Sweet Georgie Boy

As the late great Yogi Berra said, "It's deja vu all over again." Unfortunately, this time it doesn't make me smile. Just sixteen days after our Jake left us, Georgie crossed the rainbow bridge.
This afternoon Mary and I had to make that painful, heart wrenching decision to have George euthanized.  George has been battling kidney disease and it finally caught up with him. We both believe the loss of Jake compounded his condition and his health just spiraled. Stress weakens the immune system and thus his kidney disease rapidly advanced.
I know I told the story of how George came to live with us but since this is his post I'll repeat it. We had just completed the paper work and as they put Jake in a box for us to take home, a couple came in with our George.  He was just a tiny little squirt with eyes just recently opened. No shelter could take him because he needed quarantine space. Mary and I looked at each other, and at the same time said we would take him too. And so he came home that day. George slept against Mary's neck for weeks as he finally started to grow, he was only a week or two younger than Jake.
Georgie loved boxes, bathroom sinks, and hiding under our beds. He was a vocal boy and always had to have the last word, at least with me.  Sometimes it wasn't a meow but a mumbled type of growl as if to say buzz off, again, only for me. 
George with Inky
He loved his mama, this boy would come at her beckon call. He was a lap cat for Mary, gave me the stink eye, and usually hid when company came.

Our boy will be missed and the house will seem empty and quiet. It's hard to believe in just 13 months all our boys are gone.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Mary's Return to Flight

Today, my bride returned to flight.  I honestly believe I was more nervous then she was.  Mary wanted to ride right seat so I stayed on the ground while she climbed aboard our friends Cherokee 140. 

Charles and I swapped text messages and phone calls to make sure Mary was feeling good and the weather was going to hold out. With everything a go, Charles headed south to Ocean City for our planned meet up of 11:30ish.
I set up a camera on the tail tie down for a different angle that I want to use on our future flights, today would be a good test.  Charles and Mary climbed aboard while I sat and watched from my SUV.

The winds favored Runway 2, and Charles taxied out via taxiway Hotel, it was open today.  The take off looked smooth as they climbed out, all I could do was track them on Flight Aware.
I watched as they overflew the airport and set up to enter the left downwind for runway 2.  There was a King Air doing pattern work and a couple of school planes keeping things busy too.  Charles worked his way in and made a nice landing in crosswind conditions.

Mary is amazing! For all that she went through she made the decision to climb aboard and once again fly. I'm proud of her for taking that step and seemingly as calm as could be.
The process to obtain an aircraft is moving forward, and we hope to post some pictures and document the process very soon. Together we have decided on a 1975 Commander 112A.  The 112A fits our mission, has two doors and is very spacious and comfy. 

Yesterday, I mentioned to Mary that maybe this was meant to be. We said goodbye to Zero Eight Romeo and the new plane is Seven Five Juliet.  Romeo and Juliet ??? 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

More Airtime!

Today I got back in the air with fellow hangar neighbor, Chet. Flying twice in one week, it's starting to feel like old times. (insert big grin).

Chet tugged out his Cherokee 180 and we headed to Cambridge for breakfast.  The ramp was full, and there was a line waiting for tables.  We didn't wait too long and managed a good spot at the windows overlooking the ramp.  When we landed I recognized a handful of the planes on the ramp, it was the Woodbine crew.   
Chet and I walked by their table and I said hello, the look on their faces was just priceless.  I'm sure I was the last pilot they expected to see.  It felt good to see them as we all exchanged greetings and handshakes, I've missed meeting up with those guys.
the best sweet tea
We enjoyed our breakfast and airplane chat. We discussed Commanders and engine upgrades, ADSB and maintenance shops.  Like truck drivers, us pilots are authorities on everything.
Here is todays flight video.  I managed all the right cable connections, but somehow forgot to switch to the external mic on the Garmin VIRB.  Maybe the next flight I'll have it all together.

A shout out to Bryan, one of our blog readers that introduced himself to me out on the ramp. Thanks for following our blog, and for introducing yourself. It's always fun meeting our readers.

One bit of info to add on the plane search.... We are starting the formal process, we have a plane that we really liked and the owner said it's ours if we want it. More info to follow!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

I Aviator

1971 PIPER PA-28-140
Charles G and I swapped text messages and phone calls to lock down a date to fly, today was the day. It was time to get back in the air, to get back on the horse.

I guess I slept ok last night, Despite being a bit nervous. I got up this morning and flowed through the morning rituals; feed the zoo, clean up, update the banking and check my flight gear. Insert the needle scratching across a record noise, yes the old vinyl kind. What is this last step that I speak of? Why it's the first steps in getting ready to FLY! That's right....F L Y

I made sure my iPad was charged and ForeFlight updated, check. I packed the only video camera I had left, Activeon Gold, and got it stowed in my flight bag. My Lightspeed Zulu's are here at the house, they are packed and ready, batteries good. I also packed the CRAZEDpilot In-The-Ear Headset I bought, but never had the chance to try them out, today I would give them a try.
My haircut was scheduled for noon, the same time Charles and I planned to meet at Ocnean City, KOXB. With a quick phone call I changed my hair cut time to 4pm and off I went to the airport. I did have to dig out my RAM camera mount that was packed away in the hangar, thankfully, I guessed right and found it without delay.  My nervousness was ramping up, I could feel my heartbeat pounding in my chest.

Wanting to calm down a bit I headed to the terminal to wait on Charles who was just maybe ten minutes out. To use a Charles phase I was "creeping" him on flightaware. Everyone at the terminal wished me good luck, they are like family, and they all know the story and struggle to get back to this point.
Drawing a deep breath, I pulled open the office door and walked out across the ramp to Zero Seven Tango. Once at the plane Charles and I chatted, it was so good to see him.  He could tell I was wound a bit tight so we chatted a little more then climbed aboard. I was losing sight of the fly time about to happen, and instead everything was starting move faster in my minds eye then actual time. As Mary would say, I had that look. Charles quickly distracted me handing the checklist over so I could take part in the CRM duties. Now having time to think about that it helped diffuse my nervousness. 

CRM is used by flight crew (and others in a safety critical role within aviation) to enhance the safety of every flight. It promotes the use of non-technical skills, like teamwork and decision making to ensure sound situational awareness and problem solving.

The pre-start went fine, as well as the taxi out and run-up. I had a bit of the shakes, maybe it was the adrenaline rush taking over.
My heart was pounding, I wondered if my headset was really a stethoscope. We were rolling, Charles did a great job verbalizing everything and as we left the ground I looked out the right side window to see the beach along Assateague. The view was breathtaking on this sunny day. Oh how I missed the view. 
We turned north and the full view of Ocean City filled the windscreen, it was like a new discovery all over again.

Once west of the airport and clear of any traffic, Charles transferred control over to me with the your plane, my plane confirmation procedure. I felt rusty and chased my vertical speed a bit as I worked to keep my altitude on the mark. It was good to touch the controls, absorbing the peaceful focus needed and enjoyed by pilots. I missed that focus, the view, the sounds and everything about being in the plane. I missed the camaraderie of fellow pilots sharing the flight time.
We once again transferred controls and Charles made a nice landing at Cambridge, KOXB.  We secured the plane and headed inside for lunch only to find a packed house. There was a private party, and we were informed that Kay's was closed to the public. We turned and headed back out to the plane. The next stop for lunch time eats would be Delaware Coastal in Georgetown, Delaware (KGED).
Charles started up and taxied out for runway one-six. I handled the checklist as we went through each item with Charles confirming.  Zero Seven Tango rolled down the runway and once again was in the air. Our flight path followed a seventy degree heading over to GED and entry to the pattern.  I didn't fly this leg, instead, I enjoyed the view and the sounds. Charles rolled on another landing and we taxied to the ramp shutting down next to two jets.

Arena's was open and we grabbed a booth along the windows.  We each ordered the BLT (it was huge) and a cup of crab soup, it was really good. We enjoyed lunch and talking about flying and my return to the air.
file photo - online
Panchito, the B25J Mitchell bomber hangared at GED taxied by the restaurant.  I tried to grab a quick video, but only managed a tail shot as it passed by.
We finished up lunch and headed back out to the plane. Charles sumped the fuel and I checked the tanks.  It was time to climb aboard and get the fan turning for our return to Ocean City.  By now it was actually warm enough to taxi with the door cracked open to provide some air flow.

I did get some flying and radio work in as we approached KOXB.  There was one plane that departed and one that landed. The pane on the ground had to back taxi (NOTAM for taxiway) so we slowed down and entered on a right base. With the transfer of control completed Charles added in flaps and pointed for the runway.  I had left him a bit high but he knows his plane and made a smooth descent and landing.  We also back taxied and shut down at the terminal.
It was an AWESOME day!  I am so glad Charles got me back in the air. We had a blast flying around, grabbing lunch and talking airplanes. Charles was right, I'm ready to ramp up the airplane hunt.
THANK YOU, Charles!

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Flight Track Findings

I decided to watch one of my videos of flying the Debonair from Ocean City to North Carolina. On that video I replayed the take off sequence over and over until I was sure of my altitude after take off and crossing or just about to cross RT 611. 
My best guess was around 250'.  So taking a few minutes to think about all that happened in a short, what seemed like an accelerated time frame, my best guess is that I was closer to 400 than 700 feet when the crap hit the fan. I had no way to prove my new theory. 

You're wondering why the heck does it matter now...because it does to me and the pilot decisions I made that day. This is why I am so desperate to see the video, I need that closure.

The New Findings...

What really confuses me is that I went through my iPhone and Foreflight to look for a possible recording of the flight track and could not find anything labeled for the KOXB-KPSK leg.  I'm not sure what possessed me last night but I was going through Foreflight and working with flight planning.  When I finished I thought I would clean out any old flight track logs that had been stored. I went through each one and clicked on a KOXB-KOXB file and was floored. There it was, our brief flight from June 29th.

I exported the .kml file in hopes of gaining more info through Google maps.  The actual flight time on Foreflight listed 1:12. I opened Google and loaded the .kml file. I was stuck in stupid, frozen, there before my eyes was a flight plan with the altitude ladder bar staring me in the face. How the heck can I measure this, how do I get Google to show me altitudes or elevations?
I immediately went to the tool option and noticed GPS and Ruler. I clicked on GPS but I needed the Garmin VIRB and that's still with NTSB. So, my second option was Ruler. I used the option and picked out two points on the vertical ladder bar that measured 518.89 feet.  What! I had thought I was at maybe 700 feet when asked by first responders the day of the accident. The quick path option showed 518' Wow! I was speechless. I had to dig deeper.
I needed something more solid than picking two random points on a line. I searched online for google map information and found that I can use the Show Elevation profile listed under the Edit link. And so I did, carefully following the online instructions to allow the file to plot the info I was so desperate to see.
Here is the plot of the highest elevation I reached that day, 331 feet. From wheels up to the point of impact 51 seconds. The plot also showed where the first vibration hit just after wheels up during my smooth climb out. 

From the initial vibration to the secondary strong vibration and power loss was three seconds. You can see, from that point I did my best for maintaining the best rate of climb. Avoiding a stall, I made the left turn for my plan B, the golf course.

I'm still not sure how or why we both survived, but flying the plane was priority one and watching my airspeed to avoid a deadly stall spin was my constant focus. I'm still looking forward to watching the video to confirm what I have found and plotted.
Thanks for following along on this journey. It's not the travel postings I love to write about, but, it's a personal journey for me to find closure as a pilot and a survivor.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Insurance Update!

UPDATE  3.6.2019 

I was contacted by my broker and he let us know that ONE company indicated they would insure us. Indicated because I did not supply a specific SN or tail number at this time. I guess since 13 other companies declined they saw the fruit ripe for the pickin'.

For the Sierra at @80k hull value the in-movement deductible would be 5k and not-in-movement deductible is 500. I would be required to have 15 hours dual, 10 solo, and a minimum of 30 full stop landings. The rest of the policy info is $1 mil Liability / $100,000 each passenger, $5,000 Med Pay each occupant.  Total Annual Premium = $ 2869

For a Commander 114 @100k hull value the IM deductible is 5k, NIM 500. I would be required to have 10 hours dual, 5 solo, and a minimum of 25 full stop landings. The rest of the policy info is $1 mil Liability / $100,000 each passenger, $5,000 Med Pay each occupant.  Total Annual Premium = $ 3188
I have decided to wait until I have the final report in hand, the more info provided the better. Once that is done and requests for quotes are received then we will close on a plane.

Just for reference
My typical insurance on the Sundowner was $620 a year and the Debonair for the first year was $1,055 a year, both with no deductables. 

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Our Boy Jake

Today we said goodbye to our boy Jake. He was loved and he will be missed. Jake provided many entertaining moments with his wild hair runs through the house late at night, his verticle leaps up door frames, and his swatting of Ziva's tail whenever it got too close.  
We adopted Jake from the Humane Association in Wilmington. I pretty much tagged along thinking Mary would pick out our kitty. She passed Jakes cage and kept looking but when I walked up he came to the door and pawed nonstop.  Jakes litter mates never moved from the back of the cage. I turned away then walked back and he once again started pawing at the door, that was it, he stole my heart.   
Jake and George.

We could not take him home the first day, the Humane Association had to contact our vet and we would have to return the following day.  When we returned we were told our vet said give the Mascelli's everything you have, you won't find a better home. And with that, Jake was ours. We completed the paper work and as they put Jake in a box for us a couple came in with our George.  He was just a tiny little squirt with eyes just recently opened. No shelter could take him because he needed quarantine space.  Mary and I looked at each other, and at the same time said we would take him too.
During his first few months at home we entered Jake in "the cutest kitty" contest sponsored by the News Journal, he took a top five.  Our boy loved people and quickly warmed up to your feet or lap, whichever you offered up.
Mary and I will miss our boy, he helped Mary when we lost our Inky. Honestly, he filled Inky's roll as head lap cat and pretty much ditched me and hung on her every word and movement. This was odd since he was my cat, followed me everywhere, slept in my shoes, and sat with me every morning when I got dressed for work. He didn't even like Mary picking him up and loving all over him. My how the times changed over the years.

I hope he is with his buddy Inky, pictured above. May he cross the rainbow bridge and meet up with his buddy who we lost just 13 months ago. May they both be pain free and play with our Roxi and Maggie girls until we meet again.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Grounded w/o Insurance

I have previously posted about working some numbers for insurance on specific type planes that I am looking at as a potential purchase.

Beech Sierra's 75k-80k
Commander 114's 85k-100k

I know I still have a few hurdles to clear as far as getting back in the air but I wanted to knock out the ground work ahead of time.

Unfortunately, I received an email today from the insurance broker I have dealt with since I started flying.

Hi Gary,

I was not able to get any quotes for the two aircraft you were considering.  Because of the recent loss and your current pilot experience in retractable gear aircraft, all the companies declined to quote.  Your former insurer said they may consider quoting a fixed gear aircraft but declined to quote the retracts.

If you want to consider a fixed gear, let me know what year/make/model/value and I'll try to quote.  Please call me if you have any questions.

And with that bit of news, I'm benched. It's very frustrating and down right depressing. For now, I'll wait on the NTSB final report and the one year anniversary to pass before I try again.

The boat life in the Caribbean or the motor home life is all starting to look pretty attractive about now.

N/A "Don't Let The Old Man In"

I'm a big Toby Keith fan. I stumbled across this song/video on YouTube, I just had to share!
 I guess it kind of fits they way I feel at times.  The body is worn but the mind still says go. I always joke, that when it's my time there will be nothing left to salvage from me, I will have used it all up. I know, sick, but if you know me you understand.

The plane hunt continues along with the search for insurance quotes. It's a slow pain in the butt process. Each day I feel a boat in the Caribbean is looking better. My bride says NO to the boat idea. Maybe it's time to trade the wings for the motorhome travel life?